The 2018-19 college swimming season has entered its final stages as the Sunshine State Conference Championships begin this Thursday in Clearwater where seven women's and six men's teams will be competing at the Long Center for league titles and individual placements at the NCAA Championships in March.
The Long Center is located at 1501 North Belcher Road in Clearwater and is hosting the SSC Championships for the fourth time (2012, '13, '18, and '19). This year's meet runs Thursday through Sunday and features preliminaries in a morning session and championship races in an evening session each day. Admission is $10 per session for adults or $60 for the entire meet. The all-session pass includes a program and all heat sheets. Admission for children ages 3-12 is $5 per session or $25 for the all-session pass. Children's passes do not include programs or heat sheets. Championship programs may be purchased separately for $5 and include heat sheets for all sessions. Heat sheets are also available for $2 per session. Tickets will only be available at the gate.
The prelims begin at 10 a.m. all four days of competition, and the finals sessions start at 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday's finals begin at 5 p.m. A complete schedule of events can be found at Sunshine State Conference Swimming Championship Central, with live coverage also available through the SSC website.
Nova Southeastern has won four of the previous eight women's SSC Championship meets, including three of the last four, with Florida Southern breaking up that run in 2016. Since then, the Moccasins have finished third each of the last two seasons, with Tampa runner-up each time as well. In fact, the women's SSC Championship meets have been largely dominated by those same three teams with Nova, Tampa, and Florida Southern finishing in the top three seven years in a row, in one order or another. The Spartans and Moccasins have never finished outside the top three.
All three of those teams go into the SSC Championships ranked in the top-25 of the most recent CSCAA national poll too. Tampa is No. 7, Nova Southeastern is No. 10, and Florida Southern is No. 16.
Nova Southeastern won last year with a meet-record 997½ points to finish exactly 200 ahead of Tampa. The Sharks won 16 of the 19 events and 21 medals, while Florida Southern and Tampa each picked up 12 medals. The other four SSC teams combined for 12.
Though Nova Southeastern graduated many of its top swimmers from last year, the Sharks do return sophomore Emma Sundstedt, who won three gold medals at the 2018 championships in the 200-free, 500-free, and 1,000-free. She also helped the Sharks win gold medals in two relay races. Also returning for Nova is sophomore Jenna Johns, won won the 100-backstroke and was part of four gold medal relay teams. Two other individual champions return as well, with Lynn senior Catalina Galea a two-time winner in the 1,650-free, and Tampa sophomore Hana Van Loock attempting to defend her title in the 100-free.
Florida Southern returns two medalists in seniors Katie Moore and Haley DeGrace. Moore took silver in the 500-free, and bronze in the 200-free and 1,000-free in 2018, her first season with the Moccasins. DeGrace has medaled in the 100-breast three consecutive years, finishing second as a sophomore, and third as a freshman and senior. In the 200-breast, DeGrace finished fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore, and second as a junior. She is the top returning swimmer from last year's SSC Championships in both breaststroke events and also helped the Moccasins' two medley relay teams pick up silver medals too.
Moore and DeGrace have been Florida Southern's top individual winners this year with 11 and five wins respectively. Moore has five in the 1,000-free (the most by any Moccasin in any event this season), four in the 500, and two in the 200. She has national top-10 times in the 200 and 500 where she has been the Sunshine State Conference's best swimmer this season. DeGrace is a four-time winner in the 200-breast and has one in the 100, and has been the Moccasins' lead swimmer in every breaststroke race this season. She ranks 12th nationally in the 200 and number one in the SSC.
Joining Moore and DeGrace with multiple individual wins and at least one NCAA provisional qualifying time this year are senior Krystal Karas and junior Malin Wallen. Karas is again Florida Southern's top sprinter with her NCAA "B" times in the 50-free and 100-free, and she's second on the team to Moore in the 200-free where she has another NCAA "B" time. Wallen has hit an NCAA "B" standard in the 400-IM and is just off that mark in the 200-IM and 200-free.
Junior Kyra Fraser completes the list of Moccasins with NCAA "B" times, having achieved that in the 200-backstroke. Along with sophomore Maria Di Bella and junior Mallary Meyer, Fraser is also one of three Moccasins who have been a little over one second away from the provisional standard in the 100-back as well.
Florida Southern's best butterfly swimmer this year has been senior Rebeka Dics, though sophomore Kimmy Chang in the 100 and junior Madelyn Snodgrass in the 200 have held those spots in the most recent meets. Dics has also won five medals at the SSC Championships in her career as a relay swimmer, including three golds.
After the conclusion of the SSC Championships, Florida Southern's qualifiers will move on to the NCAA Division II National Championships in Indianapolis, March 13-16.